Evolution of the Riverside Hotel

One prominent building built in 1870 evolved with the Reno divorce colony.

The Riverside Hotel witnessed the emergence of Reno’s divorce haven. It sits on the Truckee River and was central to Reno’s divorce history. The 20th century hotel evolved from an 1870s home. The house was dubbed The Lake House after its owner Myron C. Lake. It was purchased by Lake’s family in 1880 and was given its famous name, Riverside. This first sale of the building would begin a long pattern of transferring ownership.

The hotel was sold again in 1896, this time to Harry Gosse. Gosse rebuilt the Riverside into an extravagant hotel. The Riverside was transformed from a home into a modern three story hotel at the turn of the 20th century. After its debut in 1907, Gosse’s hotel held prestige in the community for over a decade. The hotel had 110 rooms and touted ornate architecture amid its brick exterior. However, this grand version of the Riverside was destroyed by fire in 1922.

After the fire, the historic property was sold to George Wingfield in 1924. Wingfield found a local architect to rebuild Riverside into a six-story building. Wingfield lobbied for a shorter residency period to prepare for his hotel’s grand opening in 1927. Wingfield knew a reduction of the residency requirement from six months to three months would bring security to his massive hotel. With the legislation in place, his hotel was filled with an influx of divorcees. Just after residency was reduced, greater draw to Nevada came in 1931 with the state’s legalization of gambling. The Riverside met that legal opportunity by opening a casino in 1935.

While the Riverside Hotel’s business for gambling grew, a young divorced mother worked at a neighboring club. In the late 1930’s Jessie Beck worked at a gambling club alongside her second husband, Fred Beck. When Fred passed away in 1954, Jessie took over the games and grew to be a more prominent figure in Reno. Jessie’s decades of experience at the club prepared her with the business acumen and sense of hospitality which supported her in her 1971 purchase of the Riverside Hotel. After the three million dollar purchase, Jessie added her name to the hotel’s signage after purchasing the hotel.

The Riverside Hotel lays claim to many different owners. Through reconstruction and sell outs, the hotel maintains a legacy for the people it housed throughout Reno’s time as a divorce haven. George Wingfield had sold the building in 1955 in the height of Reno’s divorce haven heyday. He had owned the hotel as the residency period shortened in 1931 and sold before other states lessened obstacles to divorce in the 1960’s. By Jessie Beck’s death in 1987, the city had entirely lost its national draw as a divorce haven. The Riverside hotel serves as a monument to housing and hospitality for divorcees throughout Reno's history.